Literary Agents, Their vs. Him or Her, and Using “Such As”


bookdoctorby Bobbie Christmas

Q: Because the completion of editing for my book is drawing near, I have been looking into agencies to represent it. I am a little disheartened by what I’ve found. On Writers Market, only three agencies are listed for YA fantasy. Publishers Marketplace also has a very short list. Are there any agencies you would recommend? I feel my trilogy is unique and would do well in the market. I would like to find it the best representation possible.

A: I couldn’t be much more help than the resources you’ve already checked, so I’ll say this: Go to a bookstore and read the acknowledgments pages of books in the same category as your series. Write down the book titles and names of the agents who handled those books, and then go online and research those agents to get their agency names, addresses, and preferred methods of contact (snail mail or e-mail). Send each a specifically geared query letter that says something like this: “I see that you represented Sam Smith’s Bizarre World fantasy trilogy, and my book fits into the same genre; however…” Briefly say exactly why your book or trilogy of books is even better. Never fail to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope if you query by snail mail.

Q: When is it correct to use “their” instead of constantly using “his and her?”

  • Example 1: Anyone at any age can learn to use their intuition.
  • Example 2: Cultural symbols differ for each person because of their backgrounds.
  • Example 3: She and he need to find their own musical instrument.

A: It is correct to use “their” only when it refers to a plural, so one way to avoid overusing “his or her” and other such wordy phrases is to make the noun plural, so the pronoun can be plural. Another way is to recast the sentence. Here are some potential rewrites of the examples you sent:

  • Example 1: Anyone at any age can learn to use intuition.
  • Example 2: Because of differing backgrounds, everyone has differing cultural symbols.
  • Example 3: All musicians need to find their own musical instruments.

Q: To avoid redundancy, I believe the words “such as” should be simply omitted. (Quote taken from one of your current pieces, by the way.) “Bobbie sold personal memoirs to publishers such as John Wiley & Sons and Adams Media Corporation.”
What’cha think?

A: First of all, I don’t claim to be the least wordy writer in the world; instead my mission to teach other writers to write better than I do. (Grin.) Second of all, to delete “such as” implies exclusivity.

Let’s examine this rewrite: “Bobbie sold personal memoirs to publishers John Wiley & Sons and Adams Media.” While it makes sense and is tight, it implies that I did not sell to any other publishers, which is not the case. I’ve sold memoirs to many other publishers, but the names aren’t as recognizable as the ones I listed.

You’re right if I listed all the publishers who bought memoir pieces from me, but I’m right if I sold to unnamed publishers as well.
Is it okay if we both win?

Bobbie Christmas, book editor and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Read more Ask the Book Doctor questions and answers at


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